Dorchester, Massachusetts (CNN) - Friends, family and colleagues gathered to pay tribute to Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy on Friday evening after tens of thousands had filed past the Democratic legend's casket throughout the day.
Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, who has tried to shepherd Kennedy's signature cause of universal health care through the Senate this year, summed up his appeal in three words: "People liked him."
"Some people born with a famous name live off of it. Others enrich theirs," Dodd said. "Teddy enriched his."
Kennedy died Tuesday night at age 77 after a 15-month battle with brain cancer. He had represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 1962, leaving his stamp on "nearly every important law passed in the last half-century," Dodd said.
Kennedy became the patriarch of the first family of Democratic politics after the assassinations of his brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, during the 1960s. One of Robert Kennedy's sons, Joseph P. Kennedy II, fondly recounted how "Uncle Teddy" looked after the children of his slain siblings.
"The truth of the matter is that for so many of us, we just needed someone to hang on to - and Teddy was always there to hang on to," he said. "He had such a big heart, and he shared that heart with all of us."
The wake was held at John Kennedy's presidential library in suburban Boston, where an estimated 45,000 people had filed past the senator's flag-draped casket by Friday evening.
The senator's funeral is scheduled for Saturday at Boston's Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston's Mission Hill section, with at least 40 of Kennedy's fellow senators and former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush slated to attend.
President Barack Obama, who called Kennedy an "extraordinary leader" Wednesday, will deliver a eulogy at the funeral, according to several sources. Prime Minister Brian Cowen of Ireland, the famous clan's ancestral homeland, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown are also expected to attend, a family spokesman told CNN.
Kennedy will be buried Saturday evening at Arlington National Cemetery, outside Washington - 95 feet south of the grave of Sen. Robert Kennedy, which is in turn just steps away from John Kennedy's burial site.